You’ve almost certainly faced a major unexpected expense at some point in your life. Probably more than one.
There’s a good chance you paid for that expense by taking on debt, perhaps a high-interest credit card or personal loan. You had no good alternative — or so you thought.
As it turns out, people facing unexpected medical or veterinary bills do have a good alternative to traditional credit cards: the CareCredit credit card, which offers months or years of promotional financing at low or nonexistent interest rates. Before you find yourself in a bind, take a few minutes to educate yourself about CareCredit and decide whether it’s right for you.
CareCredit Plans and Pricing
CareCredit offers two promotional financing options: no interest — technically deferred interest — and reduced interest. CareCredit also allows you to make purchases at the card’s regular interest rate.
About 250,000 providers and merchants accept the CareCredit credit card, but not all offer both promotional financing options, and the terms of each option can vary by provider. You must clear a minimum purchase size threshold to qualify for promotional financing.
CareCredit’s deferred interest plans waive charged interest if you pay in full by the end of the promotional period. If you don’t pay in full by the end of the period, interest accrues at CareCredit’s regular APR — currently 26.99%, but subject to change with prevailing interest rates.
To qualify for a deferred interest plan, you must make a qualifying purchase of $200 or more. Your plan term can be six months, 12 months, 18 months, or 24 months, depending on the provider and purchase size.
To continue qualifying for deferred interest, you must make a minimum monthly payment every month. The minimum payment amount depends on the original purchase amount (starting balance) and slowly declines over time. For example, the starting minimum payment on a $1,200 purchase is about $40 per month.
If you don’t want to pay any interest on the purchase, you must pay off the entire balance by the end of the promotional period. This typically results in a large balloon payment in the last month, which isn’t realistic for many folks to bear.
Alternatively, you can opt for an equal payment plan that doesn’t have a balloon payment. In this case, your payment is the total purchase amount divided by the number of months in the promotional period. For example, the equal payment on a $1,200 purchase over a six-month period would be $200, or $100 over a 12-month period.
If you have any balance left at the end of the promotional period, CareCredit adds the interest accrued during the period to your balance moving forward. You must continue to make at least the minimum payment to remain a cardholder in good standing.
CareCredit also offers reduced interest plans with even longer terms.
On purchases of $1,000 or more, you may have the option to pay reduced interest over 24, 36, or 48 months. On purchases of $2,500 or more, you may be eligible for a 60-month reduced interest term.
Your exact interest rate depends on your promotional term and is subject to change with benchmarks. The 24-month term carries a 14.90% APR, while the 60-month term carries a 17.90% APR.
You must repay your balance within the promotional period. CareCredit calculates an even monthly payment that includes principal and interest.
Any purchases that don’t qualify for a promotional plan or aren’t paid in full by the end of a promotional period accrue interest at the regular rate. That’s currently 26.99% APR but may change with prevailing rates. Interest begins to accrue on the purchase date.
To avoid paying interest on these charges, pay your bill immediately.
What Can You Finance With CareCredit?
You can finance a wide range of medical, wellness, and veterinary purchases with CareCredit.
That includes payments you’re required to make until you reach your insurance deductible, plus copayments, coinsurance, and payments for eligible medical procedures and services not covered by insurance at all.
The catch is that the provider or merchant must accept CareCredit. About 250,000 providers and merchants do, but others don’t.
What follows is a partial list of purchases that may be eligible for CareCredit financing. Check CareCredit’s website and speak with your provider or merchant to confirm eligibility.
Eligible veterinary and animal care expenses include:
- Routine veterinary services, including annual checkups, vaccinations, teeth cleaning, and diagnostics
- Pet food and nutrition products
- Prescription medications
- Chronic disease management
- Parasite treatments
- Emergency treatments and surgeries
- Spaying and neutering
Dermatological & Cosmetic Products & Services
CareCredit covers costs for dermatological and cosmetic services and products not covered by insurance, including:
- Surgical procedures like body sculpting, face lifts, liposuction, rhinoplasty, reconstructive surgery, and hair replacement
- Nonsurgical procedures like laser hair removal, tattoo removal, chemical peels, and Botox
- FDA-approved skin cancer procedures, such as Mohs surgery
- Acne treatments
- Office consultations
You can use CareCredit to pay for any chiropractic services not covered by insurance as long as your chiropractor accepts CareCredit.
Eligible dentistry and oral health expenses include:
- Dental checkups
- Teeth cleaning and fluoride treatments
- Basic periodontic services
- Tooth sealants
- Ceramic fillings
- Dental implants and crowns
- Root canals
- Braces, retainers, and other teeth straightening products
- Tooth repair
Fitness Equipment & Weight Loss Services
You can use CareCredit to purchase qualifying home fitness and weight loss products and services:
- Home gyms
- Cardio and strength training machines
- Weight loss surgeries, including gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, and bariatric bypass
Hearing & Vision
CareCredit can pay for hearing and vision products and services like:
- Hearing tests and checkups
- Hearing aids
- Ear implants and earmolds
- Tinnitus evaluations and treatments
- Routine eye checkups and tests
- Prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, and sunglasses
- Lasik eye surgery
- Cataract surgery
Hospital & Health System Services
CareCredit can pay for eligible medical bills incurred for hospital and outpatient care, such as:
- OB/GYN care, including childbirth and recovery
- Urgent care visits
- Ambulatory surgery
- Imaging and radiology services
- Hospital lab and pharmacy services
Labs & Diagnostics
CareCredit can pay for medical diagnostic services and lab work, such as:
- Blood and fluid testing
- Tissue pathology
- Health screening and monitoring
- Drug screening and testing
- Genetic testing
Pharmacy Services & Medications
CareCredit can cover the cost of prescription medications and other pharmacy services, including:
- Prescription fills and renewals
- Over-the-counter medications
- Family planning services
- Chronic disease management
- Flu shots and other immunizations
- Health screenings
- Bath and beauty products
Medical Equipment & Supplies
CareCredit can pay for eligible medical equipment and supplies not covered by insurance or government programs, such as:
- Motorized scooters and wheelchairs
- Stair lifts
- Mobility beds
- Other mobility equipment
- Sleep apnea devices
- Portable oxygen equipment
Primary Care & Clinic Services
CareCredit can pay for eligible primary care and clinic services not covered by insurance, including:
- Family practice appointments and treatments
- Pediatric appointments and treatments
- Outpatient OB/GYN services
- Virtual doctor visits (telehealth)
- Urgent care visits
Medical Specialty Services
CareCredit can pay for elective and nonelective medical specialty services, such as:
- Allergy and immunology
- Ear, nose, and throat
- Family planning
- Vascular surgery
CareCredit may cover spa treatments and other spa services, including:
- Specialty skincare products and treatments
- Eyelash extensions and waxing
- Hair and nail services
- Body wraps and scrubs
CareCredit can help pay for sleep studies, sleep treatments, and other sleep-related products and services:
- Sleep apnea tests
- Overnight oxygenation tests
- Sleep studies
- Noninvasive ventilation
- Positive airway pressure therapy
Advantages of CareCredit
CareCredit’s key advantages include spreading the cost of expensive and often unexpected medical and veterinary bills over many months, coverage for a wide array of products and services, and relatively loose underwriting.
- Reduces the Budgetary Impact of Unexpected Medical and Wellness Expenses. CareCredit’s biggest selling point is its ability to significantly reduce the budgetary impact of unexpected medical, wellness, and veterinary expenses. It does this by reducing or eliminating interest during the promotional period and breaking up big purchases into manageable monthly payments.
- Relatively Long Promotional Periods If You Qualify. If you qualify for a CareCredit promotion, you may pay no interest on purchases for six to 24 months, or reduced interest on purchases for 24 to 60 months. By contrast, most traditional credit cards offer promotional interest periods no longer than 21 months.
- Covers a Wide Range of Products and Services. You can use CareCredit for a slew of qualifying medical, wellness, and veterinary services. This includes elective and cosmetic procedures that might not be covered by health insurance.
- Doesn’t Require Excellent Credit. Unlike many traditional credit cards with long promotional interest periods, CareCredit doesn’t require excellent or even good credit. You can qualify for this card with a 620 credit score, and possibly lower — meaning a few blemishes on your credit report won’t necessarily disqualify you.
Disadvantages of CareCredit
CareCredit’s downsides include high interest rates if you don’t qualify for a promotion, the possibility of a hefty deferred interest bill, gaps in availability and coverage, and no rewards.
- High Interest Rate If You Don’t Qualify for a Promotion. CareCredit’s interest rate is pretty high, even by credit card standards. If you don’t qualify for a promotion or don’t pay off your balance by the end of the special financing period, you’ll pay 26.99% APR on your balance.
- Deferred Interest Can Bite If You Don’t Pay in Time. Deferred interest sounds like a great deal. And it is, as long as you pay off your balance in time. Otherwise, you’ll be on the hook for all the interest you would have paid during the promotional period.
- Not All Health Care Providers Participate. CareCredit has a broad network of participating providers, but it’s not universally accepted. Confirm with your provider that they accept CareCredit before assuming anything.
- Promotional Financing May Not Be Available at Your Provider. Promotional terms vary from provider to provider. Deferred or reduced interest might not be available at your preferred shop. Again, confirm before making assumptions.
- No Cash Back. CareCredit purchases don’t earn cash back or other types of rewards. That’s a drawback relative to cash-back credit cards that also offer long no-interest promotions.
How CareCredit Stacks Up
CareCredit is not your typical credit card, but it does compete directly with a host of credit cards offering 0% APR or reduced APR promotional financing.
One such competitor is Citi Simplicity, which consistently makes our list of the best balance transfer credit cards on the market.
|0% APR Period||Up to 24 months with qualifying purchase||12 months on purchases; 21 months on balance transfers|
Whether you’re facing an emergency vet visit, urgent dental work, or a sudden trip to the ER, CareCredit can soften the blow.
If you qualify, this medical credit card offers a nonexistent or reduced purchase APR during promotional periods and can spread out the cost of your trip over a period of months or years.
CareCredit isn’t perfect, however. The nonpromotional interest rate is fairly high, not all providers participate, and you won’t earn cash-back or travel rewards on your spending.
Still, it could be your best bet in a tough spot.